Saturday, September 1, 2007

The game of mental toughness: Radwanska-1, Sharapova-0

Agnieszka Radwanska stood well inside the baseline, a la Marion Bartoli, waiting for Maria Sharapova's poorly executed second serves, then attacked repeatedly. Sharapova used to have one of the best second serves on the tour, but that was before she had shoulder problems and probably lost some confidence. Her second serve problem wouldn't have been an issue, but she missed her first serve enough times that service games became a problem.

That was the first set story. In the second set, Sharapova looked like herself again, whipping sharp groundstrokes and thrilling the crowd with some outstanding volleys. She made short work of that set, and it looked, for all the world, as though she would do the same in the third.

But something happened in that final set: Radwanska came onto the court with the same mindset she had in the first set. She was broken right away, but she endured the early break and went on to break Sharapova back, then break again...and again, the last break coming after five deuces. Standing well inside the court, she went back into attack mode, while Sharapova struggled with her serve and made continual errors.

Sharavpova's first two rounds indicated the strength of her service game, which has sometimes suffered since she hurt her shoulder. She committed twelve double faults in her match against Radwanska, and she had a second serve win total of only 23%. When the heat was on, it was the young phenom who kept her head about her. Final score: Radwanska def. Sharapova, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2

1 comment:

Steve Siebold said...

I agree with your analysis. Sharapova's mental toughness is being compromised by her split focus between being a professional tennis player and a madison avenue pin-up girl. While I don't blame her for cashing in while she can, her career will follow the path of the Williams sisters inconsistent performance because of their lack of 100% focus. As a former Top 500 ATP player, I had to focus completely just to make sure I was sleeping inside somewhere! I hope Sharapova's coach has the guts to get her back on track. As great as her results are, they should be even better. As a small player in Andre Agassi's coaching camp in the late 80's, we went through the same thing with him. -Steve Siebold,